How do you plan to do your digital notebook?

Today the judge guide addendum and updated engineering notebook rubric confirmed that digital notebooks will be allowed for the 2020-21 season. How does you team plan to make their notebook? What method will you use to time stamp?

For those who haven’t seen it, the 5 point “bound notebook” bonus section now reads
“Five (5) points if notebook is bound. If a Digital Engineering Notebook or a printed copy one, five (5) points if the entries contain a time stamp that can be confirmed.”


We use google docs. It’s free and it marks all of your changes and you can see the timeline of everything. It also looks quite good!


This was my StarStruck season:

We generally take a lot of pictures and they have timestamps of when the pictures are taken in their details. We would then add them to Google Drive and import them into our Engineering notebooks from Google Drive. Our Engineering notebooks are made from Google Docs

How can they “confirm” a timestamp?


That was what I was wondering too! I don’t think they are planning on looking over each timestamp with the team using a lie detector.


This is my main question as well. To me, writing a date on something is not a verifiable timestamp. It is true that Google Docs notes changes, but it sounds to me from the judge’s guide that notebooks have to be submitted as a link, and that the judging team should need no additional software other than a web browser or pdf viewer. I guess a Google doc (or Slides) would work, but I was thinking of how to add a better, more visible timestamp


We already started our physical notebook, but given the practicality and efficiency of digitalizing it, we are going to scan those pages over and continue with google docs.


woah! You’re gonna scan them? Are you gonna type out all the words again? Or are you just gonna scan each new page?

we are just going to scan each page that we have already recorded

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We’ve got a massive Google doc.

Sadly we just finished writing it into a notebook

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Just going to drop this here.

In all seriousness, I think this is the perfect season for teams to be exploring purpose-built engineering notebook software, especially that which is actually used in industry. Google Docs may be the easy solution, but it is certainly not the best solution.


Thank you so much! This is exactly what I was hoping to come out of this thread. I am very interested in learning more about purpose-built engineering notebook software


What about a GitHub Wiki? It has version history that’s publicly visible, whereas Google Docs requires giving edit permissions to view history.

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I agree, I think Git can be a very powerful tool for this purpose, as edit history and timestamps are intrisically built into the software.

The main problem I see with a GitHub repository is that fact that in order for judges to view it, it would need to be made publically available, something I imagine teams do not want.


I believe another option for this would be OneNote. From my understanding, judges should be able to view previous versions of the notebook without editing access in a browser as well. It should also be able to be kept relatively private; there shouldn’t be an issue unless a judge decides to share the link, which I imagine would be highly unlikely.


Do any of you actually use this ( eLabFTW - Open Source Laboratory Notebook ) and have it setup? I played around on the demo and didn’t truly see a “notebook” type element


You can create an “Experiment” and add content to it like a normal journal entry. It doesn’t try to exactly mimic the experience of a paper notebook, where all the content is arranged perfectly linearly across a continuous set of pages.

Once you’re done editing an “Experiment”, click “Timestamp Experiment” and it will be changed to read-only with an annotation of when it was timestamped. Importantly, this can be different from the manually specified date, if for example you are writing the entry a day or two after the fact.


In looking at OneNote, it creates a time stamp when you create a page
But you can go in and edit at later times without a time stamp

Does this satisfy the time stamp requirement since it is editable without additional time stamping?

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I’m in no place to give a definitive answer, but i wouldn’t think so. The version history may be sufficient depending on what stance the recf takes, but i wouldn’t leave it to chance. I’ve been looking at potential workflows over the past couple days and think I’ve come up with a decent solution. I think I’m going to stick with OneNote as it as accessable to a wide audience, has app support, and is very flexible when compared to something like a google doc. I will have an individual ondrive notebook for the entire year’s notebook and then different headings for the various different topics (ex: general, hardware, software). This notebook can be shared and accessed by different members of a team on multiple devices and has far superior functionality when compared to paper notebooks and many other digital solutions. To meet the date requirement, I’ve been thinking about having members export the onenote page and digitally sign it. This digital signature will have a time stamp and make the pdf read only. The pdf could then be saved to google drive folder and a link to this folder could be what you turn in to the judges. This solution isn’t perfect, particularly on the digital signature and storage side, but it is a vast improvement over the rigid paper engineering notebook


Save all your logbook/code/documentation to a git repo?

Otherwise google docs logs the exact time of all edits, who did it and is easily visible. I am sure Microsoft Word/Onenote has similar features to track collaboration. Apple pages also has a track changes feature, if you turn collaboration on.